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2007/10/31 Halloween at work
π 2007-10-31 20:29 by Merlin in Google

Another year, another halloween...
Unfortunately, I did miss Halloween last year while I was training for my IFR rating, and I remember that the previous year, I had still spent the time to go through every single floor of every building we had in mountain view to see all the decors and costumes, but this year, I just had to admit defeat: we had way too many people in way too many locations for this to be practical.
So, I just showed up in costume and went to our party and costume contest :)



















The other pictures are here
2007/10/28 Weekend in Santa Monica
π 2007-10-28 22:38 by Merlin in Flying, Trips

While I wasn't exactly feeling my top, Jennifer and I did our scheduled trip to Santa Monica, to visit the science museum there in the afternoon, and go to the Monster Massive Party the evening.
Turns out that the weather was actually fairly poor on the way down, I had to fly IFR through the clouds, and even got close to icing conditions. However, we got a pretty smooth flight thanks to my avoiding the worst precipitation thanks to the satellite weather in my handheld garmin 496.










Once arrived, we started with the science museum, I rested because I definitely needed it, and we went to Monster Massive that night.





The next morning, we went rollerbladding on the Santa Monica Boardwalk, down to Venice Beach where we had lunch, visited the Pier where the great " Falling Down " movie with Michael Douglas ends

























After that, we went back to the Santa Monica airport, and flew home after I had a quick rest to regain some brain power.
The flight home was much nicer, with a good tailwind, direct routing, and a nice sunset on the way. We got home in a record 1H40, or 2H ground to ground. That's officially faster than an airline :)







The rest of the flight is here , and all the pictures from that weekend
2007/10/27 Monster Massive 2007
π 2007-10-27 23:42 by Merlin in Clubbing

After being thoroughly disappointed by the "definitely had potential, but ultimately utterly disappointing" Spundae Lovefest Afterparty, I was still keeping good hopes for Monster Massive 2007 in LA, with a great Trance Lineup: Infected Mushroom, Markus Schultz, Armin Van Buuren, and Judge Jules.
Unfortunately, I got sick that week, and on saturday, when I was supposed to fly Jennifer and me to Santa Monica, I wasn't quite feeling back to normal yet. Yet, I figured I'd give it a shot, and we made the flight down to LA.
When we finally got in the event that evening (which took about 90mn from the time we left the hotel nearby to walking far, getting tickets, going through one line, and then another security line that was only a full size metal detector short of an airport security line (you were however fully searched and padded with a portable metal detector), we got in (and that was 90mn with VIP tickets and a special, shorter VIP line).
Unfortunately, by then the first DJ had just finished, but on the plus side I was able to get my digital camera in (for some strange reason, point and shoot crappy cameras were allowed while digital cameras were not supposed to be. WTF!). Turns out that a few other people were able to get their cameras in too through various ways (which I'm sure had to be about as inventive as mine). But seriously, events that restrict personal cameras are stupid.
Anyway, we were there for the next 4.5 hours, during which we got to listen to Markus Schultz from Global DJ Broadcast fame, the now #1 DJ in the world, Armin van Buuren, and a very nice closing by Judge Jules.
I don't want compare and rank them, they each had their own set and style, but suffice it to say that they all played good trance, which made for a really good evening. I had been a while since I had listened to so many good DJs actually playing good tracks in a row. I guess this is thanks to that, that I forgot to be tired and sick during that time, and had a great night.
Thanks to you all!











Markus Schultz




Armin




Judge Jules



The Amount of people still there around 03:30 was amazing, that was quite a crowd (I guess the good music helped)







And being close to Halloween, costumes were encouraged. The "it's my dick in a box" guys won, in my opinion :)





We cheated and just showed up. It was enough of a feat in itself for us.
We definitely had a great time. Thanks!





And here's a link to all the other pictures and videos of Monster Massive 2007 , and I'll part with a 5mn clip of a very nice mix of Adagio For Strings played by Armin (divx plugin required)
2007/10/20 A beware tale about Paypal & Paypal response
π 2007-10-20 23:39 by Merlin in Public

If you don't routinely sell stuff on ebay, or aren't verify familiar with, but use paypal, read on.

As you probably know, paypal tries very hard to upgrade everyone to a premier account so that they can scam you 2-3% for each and every transfer you do (even paypal account to paypal account, or from a bank transfer which costs them virtually nothing). In other words, if you send $100 to your coworker for a recent dinner, they keep 3%, and so on.

Obviously, the idea is to never upgrade to a premier/business account.

That said, they (somewhat recently?) changed ebay so that if you sell anything on Ebay, and the seller happens to use a credit card, you are totally screwed.
You are not allowed to refuse the payment and ask the seller to use a paypal funds or bank account funds. They flat out removed the deny payment button.
At that point, you are forced to upgrade to a premier account, unless you wait 60 days for the payment to time out, your auction to go down the drain, and the buyer to get pissed at you.
After that, your paypal account is tainted and you can't use it to get money from your buddies anymore. The only workaround is to open a new and separate paypal account that you never use for auctions.

So, if you sell on ebay, you get dinged twice: first on the auction fee (ok, that one is for the service), and then the needless paypal fees behind it.

The fine print, which is of course well hidden, is in this page


I also suspect (although haven't verified), that paypal will auto-switch your default payment type to suit you: if you're paying a premier member, they'll use your bank account so that they can pocket 2-3% (they do this for me every time, then denying me my credit card payment protection and especially the 3 month loss protection and 1 year warranty extension I'd get with my credit card).
If you're paying an regular member like me, I'm guessing that they default the payment to credit card to then force that member to upgrade.

I hated them before, I hate them even more now..

(update later) I found out that you can actualy downgrade from a premium account down to a regular account if you call their support, as a one time thing. They still scammed me the money for the two ebay transactions, but I was also able to call them about a bad seller who sold me fake nokia batteries, and they refunded me the amount of my payment, which made up for the fees they took me.
I was able to downgrade to regular account this one time.
For next time, I'll know not to put a paypal address directly in an auction, but to ask the seller to contact me first and only pay from bank account funds (and not a credit card)

(second update: reply from paypal, and my reply)
On Tue, Oct 23, 2007 at 10:22:43AM -0500, webform@paypal.com wrote:
> Hello my name is Jim, I am sorry to hear about the situation regarding downgrading your account, and I understand your frustration and concern over this issue. I am happy to assist you with your questions.


I called in friday and got my account downgraded.
Should this happen again, I'll just close my account next time.

> Personal accounts, as the name suggests, have always been intended for personal use only, and are not designed to be used for business purposes. PayPal considers the receiving of funds from eBay, Auction, or Website sales in excess of the Personal account limits to be beyond the normal level of personal use. By requiring Premier or Business accounts for all accounts that receive a large volume of payments from eBay, Auction or website sales, PayPal ensures that all high activity selling accounts are treated similarly.

That would be fine if it were the complete truth.
The part where paypal is being totally unfair and greedy is:
  • I had only ebayed one item, and the buyer used his credit card by mistake instead of his bank account. Paypal forced me to upgrade to premier just for that one payment, and purposely removed the option to receive a credit card payment, or to have the buyer resend me a payment from his bank account through paypal.
    Note of course that you conveniently make it illegal by your own rules to accept paypal for an auction, and request not to accept credit card payments.
    What paypal is doing here to force me to upgrade against my will is despicable. What you are doing is that I will look elsewhere than ebay next time, and you will lose money instead of making more through so much greed.
  • of course, charging 2-3% for person to person payments from paypal funds or a bank account, is close to theft. I will never use a premier account as long as you steal money that way.

I realize that you didn't make those rules, but feel free to forward my comments to your management.
2007/10/14 Another exploratory bay bike ride?
π 2007-10-14 22:24 by Merlin in Exercising

Jennifer and I went to explore another piece of the bay trail between Sunnyvale and Moffett. As we went past the Sunnyvale SMART recycling station, the trail became iffy. Basically, it split in to multiple options, and became a real maze.
Then again, even getting there was "interesting", due to the water level behind high, and riding the water trail under hwy 237 was quite dicy: muddy, sideways, and we were afraid of sliding down in the water :)
The problem was that more than half those paths were dead ends. Some you could get out of by crossing mud or taking questionable paths, others, outside of swimming for a few metres, there was no way out, and you had to backtrack all the way.
First, we took a path that got us smack against the gate and restricted area from Lockheed, and when we went away from it, our "reward" was being on the wrong side of a "restricted area" fence, that we managed to go around.
After finishing a loop around the salt pond, I opted to take what looked like a more official trail back, and we ended up on the wrong side of the fence below. By that time, I was fairly pissed off: we had ridden a fair amount and just wanted to go home. We already had been tricked on a road that didn't connect and teased you by being almost there, but on the wrong side of a small channel of water. After crossing at a dubious point, pretty far away, we headed back and got stopped by that gate.
The stupid thing was that the gate was supposed to stop people from getting to where we were, and we were just trying to get out. What a moronic design! It wasn't hard to get where we were without crossing any gates, and that gate was so tight that it looked like it was meant to stop cars, bikes, and even people.
At this point, I was annoyed enough that I decided that we were going to scale that gate as I really didn't feel like turning back. While it's not obvious from the picture, I was able to lift the bikes above the gate, which was no easy feat, then managed to separate them enough to climb between them on top of the lock and without being stuck by the barbed wire. Jennifer managed to sneak between the gate and the ground.



An FAA radar used for the south bay




Jennifer was smiling after having crossed the gates, but not during


Summary: whoever designed those gates and roads that don't connect and then fence you in, should be shot :)
Anyway, the rest of the few picture are here
2007/10/05 Track Day at Sears Point/Infineon
π 2007-10-05 23:39 by Merlin in Cars

The Qimonda folks were nice enough to invite us for a track day at Sears/Infineon, with instruction from the Jim Russell Racing School folks.

I've always been a bit scared of Sears: too many walls, and sure enough, at least one guy hit one, despite the instruction we got. That said, seeing the line while being driven around in a van was both fun, and useful :)

All in all, it was a good day, and I got my time down to 2:04 from over 2:20, which was reasonably good for me.




















Just in case you wonder if I went off track, I didn't. In the morning, we had a different track configuration :)



The rest of the pictures are here

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